The purpose of the paper is to capture a few vital features of the Swedish voluntary sector and to place them in an international perspective. The size and composition of the Swedish voluntary sector are discussed against the background of dominating theories in voluntary sector research. Special attention is also given to the role of the sector in the field of social welfare.
The authors present results from comparative research projects on the voluntary sector carried out in the latter part of the 1990s. It is shown that the size of the Swedish sector is as large as in other industrialised countries, although the composition and the form of the sector differs when compared to many other countries.
In weighing the importance of the sector, the authors point out that voluntary organizations make a crucial contribution in certain areas and combining work for interest and values with contributions for members and others. The characteristics of voluntary organizations and new trends within the field of social welfare are presented with the help of three ideal types.
Finally, the authors discuss some conceivable scenarios for the future of the Swedish voluntary sector.
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